Well, that wasn't so tough. We finished up the Maztang at 6pm today and took it directly to the race track. Geoff insisted and since today is his birthday, I figured 'what the heck'. More on that later.
We started the conversion on Saturday by pulling the rotary and preparing the 302 for installation. In the process of bolting the flexplate to the motor, I discovered the crankshaft endplay to be about 3/8"! I wish I had checked that while we were changing the oil pump and oil pan. After much deliberation and a very dejected Geoff, and since a new thrust bearing was nowhere to be found locally, I decided to bolt up the transmission and see what happens. The only reason I did this, is because this motor is only temporary anyway, and I don't even care if it throws the rods out of the side, as long as the oil pan isn't hurt. Well, the tranny limited the endplay down to an almost reasonable amount, so we continued on. I modified our junkyard shifter brackets to fit the bellhousing and the shifter to fit the hole in the trans tunnel, and it worked good, so now we're on to preparing the engine compartment. The kit from Granny's Speed Shop is pretty straightforward. Two stock Ford motor mounts, that must be purchased locally, bolt to the engine block and two provided mounts bolt to the crossmember, replacing the stock mounts. This requires drilling two holes in the crossmember for the hardware provided. The crossmember also needs to be removed and turned 180 degrees to provide oil pan clearance. Four bolts secure the crossmember to the frame and two long bolts connect the crossmember to the lower A-arms, through rubber bushings. The bushings have a steel sleeve in the center, that the long bolts pass through, and they were rusted solid to the bolts. No amount of sledgehammer force would budge them, which forced us to remove the A-arms with the crossmember, and press the bolts out on the hydraulic press. Disassembly is really pretty easy, but reassembly is a bear. Had the A-arm bolts not been rusted, this whole operation would have taken about 1/2 hour. A couple of spots on the firewall need to be 'relieved' with a hammer and the locations are spelled out in the instructions with the kit. Lastly, the stock transmission crossmember mount needs to be removed from the transmission tunnel. This is the 'bulge' that is spot-welded on the driver side of the tunnel. An air chisel made short work of the mount, although we knocked a few easily fixed holes in the floorboard.
Day 2 started by lowering the motor into the RX-7 engine compartment and lining up the motor mounts. Then we bolted the transmission crossmember to the tranny, drilled the holes for the crossmember brackets, and bolted the whole assembly in. The Ford smallblock really does fit nice. It sits further back in the engine compartment than a smallblock Chevy, allowing a little more room up front. We then mounted the stock RX-7 radiator using 'L brackets' we made from 1" angle iron, bolted to the oil cooler mounts. We were able to use the same type upper hose as the Chevy conversion, but needed two short flex hoses joined under the damper for the lower connection, because the radiator outlet is on the passenger side and the water pump inlet is on the driver side. A 16" electric fan completes the cooling system. We used stock exhaust manifolds, but plan to add 'shorty' headers later. The passenger side manifold fits great, but I had to grind a pretty big relief in the driver side manifold for clearance to the steering box. The manifolds we used have a large horizontal rib running the length on the outside, but perhaps other manifolds don't have this and would fit without grinding. We relocated the battery to the compartment behind the passenger seat and ran the cable under the car using rubber-coated metal straps, screwed to the floor. We mounted the Duraspark unit on the firewall near the windshield water bottle and the coil to the passenger side shock tower. The starter solenoid is mounted on the fenderwell below the washer bottle.
Days 3 and 4, Geoff was on his own, as he had the week off but I had to work. We also had quite a bit of rain both days but he was able to finish everything except the exhaust, drive shaft and shifter. So, I took off work for day 5, and we made the drive shaft and started the motor for the first time. That's also when we found that the shifter wasn't going to work for this installation. The shift cable comes out of the back of this shifter, toward the rear of the car, and interferes with the emergency brake mount. So for now the shifter is laying on the passenger seat with the cable snaked through the hole in the trans tunnel. We can at least test the transmission this way, because up until now, we don't know if the car will even move. Well, it went into reverse and drive and neutral, so that means TEST DRIVE! At this point we have a definite 'car-guy' car. Open exhaust, no hood and the shifter is lying in my lap in the passenger seat, Geoff is behind the wheel. So around the block we go. It's shifting good, running OK, it's got a pretty lumpy cam and no low end, but it looks like this might work after all.
Day 6 was another work day for me, so Geoff wrapped up all the loose ends. I placed an order to Jeg's for Geoff's birthday present, a B&M Megashifter for overnight delivery. Today is day 7 and I took another half-day from work to install Geoff's birthday present and also weld up some Turbo mufflers for a temporary exhaust system. We finished everything up at 6pm, which also happens to be the same time Orlando Speed World opens for test and tune, and against my better judgment we headed for the track. Geoff drove the Maztang and I followed in the truck, with tools and a tow rope. The car ran about 200 degrees on the way, so we will have to address the cooling system next, but it's not about to stop Geoff's mission. So, about 8pm tonight Geoff staged the Maztang and fulfilled his goal to make a pass on his birthday. The car spun the tires pretty hard on the launch, even though it doesn't feel like it has much low end, and ran through at 14.73 @ 95 mph. Geoff said it felt good after it got to the top of first gear and the revs were up. I bumped the timing up a few more degrees and he was going to make another pass, but the number of cars in attendance meant that it would be at least an hour before he got back to the starting line. Since there was a birthday party planned, we decided to be satisfied with one pass tonight and return another day. The party is still going on as I type this at 2am.